Are you an oil person or a cream person? I’m talking moisturiser rather than your dietary preferences.
Because it seems that while for decades we’ve slathered our bodies in creams, oils are on the up.
According to market analysts Mintel, while only one in ten British people used body oil in 2015, just a year later that figure had leapt by 70 per cent — that means almost 12 million of us are using the stuff.
According to market analysts Mintel, while only one in ten British people used body oil in 2015, just a year later that figure had leapt by 70 per cent — that means almost 12 million of us are using the stuff
Oils are hardly a new concept — the Egyptians anointed their bodies with fragrant oils after bathing — but in the UK it’s taken us a while to catch on.
‘It started around ten years ago when argan oil began to appear in beauty products,’ says Roshida Khanom, Mintel’s senior personal care analyst.
‘That, alongside our interest in Eastern beauty regimes, where oils have long been used, boosted sales.’
This has been helped by the trend for natural products.
Given the way oil is marketed — luxurious, nourishing, potent — you’d assume they were the best way to lock moisture into your skin. But is an oil really any better for your body than a cream?
‘Oils don’t contain water so they don’t need preservatives,’ says Roshida. ‘And they can also be marketed as containing botanical ingredients, which appeals to some consumers.’
‘Oils have traditionally been seen as greasy, but in the last couple of years we’ve seen lighter body oils, which are more easily absorbed and have been launched in mist or spray formats, which make them easier to apply.’
COST OF BEAUTY
British women spent £1.06 billion on skincare in 2014 — which was less than the £1.34 billion they spent on make-up
All of this means that whether you’re looking at Garnier and the Sanctuary or Clarins and Dior, you’re bound to find an oil. Given the way they’re marketed — luxurious, nourishing, potent — you’d assume they were the best way to lock moisture into your skin. But is an oil really any better for your body than a cream?
To find out, I tested a number of body creams against oils from the same ranges. The idea was to use a cream on a section of one arm or leg, and the corresponding oil on the same section of the other limb.
To find out, FEMAIL tested a number of body creams against oils from the same ranges. The idea was to use a cream on a section of one arm or leg, and the corresponding oil on the same section of the other limb
Rather than relying on my subjective view on whether one spot felt more moisturised, I turned to the same machine that beauty brands use to test the efficacy of their products.
Dr Helen Taylor, a partner at EnviroDerm, a consultancy that supplies analysis equipment to the skincare industry, explained that I needed a corneometer, which uses electrical conductivity to measure how much water is in the top layer of skin. You press the pen-like device against the skin until it shows a reading.
I use it to take measurements before I’ve applied any products at all, an hour after I’ve first applied them and then after ten days of daily application.
Though I couldn’t see or feel any difference in the various areas, the corneometer told a different story.
Even if initially the oil appeared to be as effective as the cream, after ten days, in every single case, the cream had done a better job of moisturising the skin.
So why was this? In the creams I used, there is a water component and an oil component. But in the oils, there is no water component.
‘The creams and oils work to seal in moisture, but only the cream is helping to increase the level of moisture in the skin,’ says Nausheen Qureshi, founder of Elethea skincare.
Harley Street cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting says: ‘My preference is for properly formulated creams that ensure skin’s structure is supported. That means the right ingredients to attract water to the skin and then seal it in’
However, confusingly, in some cases the products that were meant to be moisturising my skin actually appeared to have left it dryer. How was that possible?
‘This is a well-recognised phenomenon,’ says Dr Taylor. ‘Oil on the surface of the skin stops water evaporating and this can lead to a drop in the amount of natural moisturising factors in the skin.’
So does this mean you should ditch oils? Not at all, says Dr Taylor.
‘Oils have a number of benefits.
‘You may just have to be careful about how much you use and how often you use them.’
Ultimately, if you’re worried about scaly skin, a cream is your best bet.
Harley Street cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting agrees. ‘My preference is for properly formulated creams that ensure skin’s structure is supported. That means the right ingredients to attract water to the skin and then seal it in.’
It seems moisturising creams really are the cream of the crop. Here’s how the creams and oils measured up in my test:
DermaSpa Uplifted+ body lotion, £5.99 and DermaSpa Uplifted+ body oil, £9.99
DermaSpa Uplifted+ body lotion, £5.99
Moisture increase after one hour: 39.2 per cent
After ten days: 23.3 per cent
DermaSpa Uplifted+ body oil, £9.99
One hour: 34.2 per cent
Ten days: 12.4 per cent
Of all the products I tested, these ones by Dove seemed the most effective, with both showing impressive results after ten days.
Unfortunately, I found the thin oil tricky to apply and hated the sweet smell. The cream, the overall winner, was much more pleasant.
Sweet Orchid body cream, £25 and Sweet Orchid Monoi body oil, £35
Sweet Orchid body cream, £25
One hour: 26.6 per cent
Ten days: minus 13.9 per cent
Sweet Orchid Monoi body oil, £35
One hour: 3 per cent
Ten days: minus 15.1 per cent
These are my go-to luxury products. They smell divine and the oil is so thick that you have to warm the bottle to make it liquid.
This might explain why it did such an effective job of sealing the skin and stopping any moisture getting to it.
It seems I’m better off using the silky cream only as an occasional treat.
Pure Relaxing body cream, £8.50 and Pure Relaxing bath, body & hair oil, £9.50
Pure Relaxing body cream, £8.50
One hour: 35.5 per cent
Ten days: minus 3.5 per cent
Pure Relaxing bath, body & hair oil, £9.50
One hour: 7.1 per cent
Ten days: minus 25.3 per cent
I would never have guessed these were M&S. They smelled like an expensive spa and both the cream and thick oil seemed to be easily absorbed.
It was surprising to see that technically they had made my skin drier after ten days, even though I couldn’t feel the difference.
Norwegian Formula Deep Moisture body lotion, £4.99 and Norwegian Formula Deep Moisture body oil, £8.99
Norwegian Formula Deep Moisture body lotion, £4.99
One hour: 47.8 per cent
Ten days: 8.4 per cent
Norwegian Formula Deep Moisture body oil, £8.99
One hour: 46.3 per cent
Ten days: minus 9.8 per cent
The spray on the oil made it easy to apply while the cream absorbed quickly for one so thick. An hour after using them, both had improved hydration by 50 per cent, leaving skin soft and supple.
Ten days on and though I couldn’t see the difference, the lotion had significantly outperformed the oil.
Coconut Oil Formula body lotion, £3.99 and Coconut Oil Formula body oil, £6.99
Coconut Oil Formula body lotion, £3.99
One hour: 42.9 per cent
Ten days: 1.9 per cent
Coconut Oil Formula body oil, £6.99
One hour: 37.7 per cent
Ten days: 0.4 per cent
I really disliked the smell of these products. Though they’re not, the scent seems synthetic and the oil seemed to take a while to sink into my skin.
The cream wasn’t a great performer, and though the oil didn’t dry out my skin, it didn’t do much to improve it.